The rise of Derby defender, just as staggering as the fall of Leeds star

Derby County full-back Craig Forsyth has gone from an unsuccessful Bradford City loanee to one of the Championship's highest-rated full-backs, whereas Leeds United defender Sam Byram seems to have gone the other way.

When Nigel Clough signed a 24-year-old relatively unknown left midfielder from Watford 12 months ago, it's fair to say the supporters didn't hold much hope on him becoming a regular first-team player.

Early into his Derby career he was switched from left midfield to left-back and instantaneously the improvement was visable to see. He was by no means the 'real deal' but he showed enough promise in the last 10-games of the season to earn a three-year contract with Derby in the summer.

After a slow start to the campaign there were many fans asking for a replacement to be brought in for the former Watford man, and when Nigel Clough was sacked after a 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest, few fans thought he had a future at the club.

Nevertheless, those supporters couldn't have been more wrong in their assessment and since Steve McClaren has been manager, he has blossomed into one of the highest-rated defenders in the league.

His performances in February have seen him win a nomination for the Player of the Month award, which is practically unheard of for defenders, especially full-backs. Add to the fact, according to the WhoScored ratings system, he has been the best left-back in the division this season.

And his considerable rise in the Championship can be contrasted to another talent that seems to have gone the other way.

At this point last season, in my opinion, there were few better players in the division than Sam Byram, regardless of whether he was playing in midfield, at full-back or on the wing. He was superb and rightfully picked up just about every Player of the Season award going at Elland Road.

He went on to be linked with some of England's wealthiest clubs, including Manchester City and Everton. And by all accounts he was expected to be one of the best players in the division this season.

However, whether it be a complete loss in form, a poorly treated injury from the summer, which saw him miss the majority of Leeds' pre-season or another factor all together, there is little doubt he hasn't been the same player this season.

He has made just 10 starts, with seven substitute appearances and his impact in those games have been a shadow of what they were last season. Which while worrying is not the end of the world.

As proven by Forsyth, players in the Championship, especially young players are prone to peaks and troughs and I believe Byram, at the minute, is just going through a trough.

He is still a superbly talented player, and will undoubtedly at some point in the future test the waters of the national side. It's important for him to remember that it is in his hands, and he will need to work hard to get out of what will prove just to be his first big challenge.

image: © eamoncurry

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